Q&A with Weather Analyst Leighton Thomas

Experienced & professional weather forecaster Leighton Thomas joins the team, with a wealth of forecasting knowledge here in Canterbury. Our social media guru sits down with Leighton and fires a few questions his way.

What’s your earliest weather memory?

My earliest memory is of the 1992 snow that hit Christchurch overnight. I remember walking outside in the morning as a 4-year-old and finding my tricycle almost completely covered by the snow.

What do you think ‘kick started’ your interest in weather?

Once again, I would have to bring this back to snow. I remember starting to learn and investigate what was meant in primary school when the radio said it was forecast to “snow down to 300m” or what “near sea level snow” meant. I have always enjoyed how unpredictable and unique weather can be. I am also fascinated by the extremes of mother nature in regards to the weather. No one system is the same. This got me into learning more and more about weather models, systems and trends in New Zealand, with a real focus on Canterbury.

What’s the trickiest aspect of forecasting here in Canterbury?

The trickiest aspect of forecasting here in Canterbury would have to be many of our micro-climates. Due to the topography of Canterbury, certain areas can be a challenge at times to forecast under certain weather systems. Timaru also seems to surprise us every now and then. Sometimes the nor-wester can be a bit hard to call, as it can be very hit and miss at times in terms of wind strength and spill over rain.

Why do you think Canterbury is so captivated by weather?

I think the majority of Canterbury weather enthusiasts have a fascination for snow and hot summer weather. We tend to a be a region that loves the outdoors and our weather has such an influence on this, whether it be visiting Ski fields in winter, or having a BBQ in the summer.

Summer or winter?

Personally this is a tough one. I tend to love the heat in summer, warm days allow for spending time in nature, gardening and the outdoors in general. However, I love what winter can bring in terms of rainfall, Southern Ocean storms and snow. I find winter is more eventful and interesting from a weather analyst and forecasting point of view.

Beach or mountains?

I would have to say the beach. Although the Southern Alps are a thing of beauty, there is something extra calming about being at the beach with the sound of the water. My absolute favourite beach would have to be Kaiteriteri, the golden sand and water there is unmatched!

What are you looking forward to the most about forecasting for Canterbury Weather Updates?

I always enjoy watching the models when we have some action packed weather on the way. Although this can sometimes be a challenge, this is something I enjoy analysing and pin-pointing as we watch the systems approaching. 

MetService or Niwa

I would have to say Metservice, only because I have not really followed NIWA weather. I tend to use MetService when looking at the rain radar images and tracking systems as they are currently occurring.

Favourite holiday destination?

My favourite Holiday destination in NZ would have to be Kaiteriteri in and around the Tasman/Golden Bay area. The weather in this area tends to be amazing in summer, albeit the odd subtropical low can make its presence felt around the New Year’s period every now and then. It also tends to be a pretty sheltered area in Kaiteriteri itself, you cannot beat a good summers day in this neck of the woods.

What excites you most about weather and especially weather in Canterbury?

I believe in Canterbury we have such variation in our weather. There isn’t many places around the world (or even in NZ) where it can be 30 degrees and then 10 mins later be 18 degrees. Also, on any given day the weather can be completely different just 50km down the road from one location to another. 

Nerd question – GFS, ECMWF, ICON model? 

The main weather model that I believe produces the goods more often than not is the ECMWF model. I find this tends to pick systems better in the long range and has less fluctuation. I believe every model still has it’s value however, as we look for patterns and trends occurring, all models are helpful in their own ways.